What your child wants more than anything else is relationship. By God’s divine guidance, He’s either placed the child in your presence or has allowed you to give birth to this child. There is a master plan in the midst of all of it which sometimes gets lost in the dealing with the struggles and difficulties and the issues. There’s something intentional and there are no mistakes in the midst of it. There’s that need for relationships.
Usually a child learning about the depth of relationships comes as a result of conflict. The kids that I’m closest to are the ones that I have fought with the most. The ones that love me the most and I love them the most are the ones that have turned my hair colors and I have wanted to yank it out. It is those that have caused that are the ones that draw the relationships together. Conflict does that. Those relationships that stick together through conflict are closer relationships.
Conflict Can Help Strengthen Your Future Relationships
Those kids that do real well move on, but it’s always funny to me that they’re the ones that we’ve had the conflict with. Your family has gone through a great deal of conflict and struggle, and I think whether it’s God ordained or not, you’re in the midst of it and it has the opportunity of pulling your family together more than you would be pulled together any other way. And if that’s true, then it changes your perspective on relationships. And it’s trying to say, I’m having a relationship with you regardless, and hopefully in that relationship I’m not going to stop if you don’t respond.
Sometimes when your child calls and there’s a conflict going on you can enter into the conflict for the sake of destroying something, or you can enter into the conflict for the sake of salvaging something. Saying, there’s something in this that’s better. Why would that happen? What’s going on there? There’s something good here. Rather than the tendency that we all have – that’s moving to the other side of the conflict – which is to separate. I think conflict doesn’t have to separate us – it can join us together.
Communicate a sense of love across a bridge of friendship that doesn’t stop if the teen doesn’t respond or makes a mistake.
Calculate and strategize the amount of time needed to further the relationship that moves beyond “entertaining” into “developing.”
For their best interest, and no matter how nasty things get, I’ll continue to love them and spend time together. Fathers, if you have a daughter, you’ll never spend enough time with your daughter. You can’t do that. In any kind of a group setting, the number one item is always the daughter saying, “I want more time with my Dad.” If you spent 24/7 with your daughter, it would never be enough time. So just know that. But they do want the time together. So when your child comes home, make sure you’re spending time with them. “You and I are going to eat breakfast. Just you and me.” Or just mom and daughter. They need the time.
Find a challenge for the both of you and pursue it with excitement, resources, time, effort, interest, and vigor.
Bike riding, buy a couple of horses, buy some jet skis, buy a boat, go white water rafting. Doesn’t have to be Noah’s Ark, it can be Billy Bob’s barge. It doesn’t have to be some Christian thing. Go ride horses in Montana. Those trips are far cheaper than having to enroll your teen in a program like Heartlight. Go do some things that are out of the ordinary. Learn to scuba dive together. Go snorkeling down in the Grand Caymans. Go camping – buy some good camping gear – you can always turn around and sell it. Buy anything used. And then sell it used. You won’t lose any money on it. Do something that’s different.
You must establish patterns of doing things while you’re still working so that these patterns are in place when you retire. It doesn’t work to put off things to do until you retire if you haven’t been doing them. Take advantage of the time now. Start doing something now that’s different. Don’t think that you can’t learn. Start doing something with your child. Buy tickets to go see something that you can’t afford. That’s what kids remember when they’ve grown up and don’t live with you any more. You’re going to want shared experiences to come back and be the foundation of your relationship.
Opportunities for Discussion
Look for opportunities to lead into a discussion where the wisdom of a parent can be communicated along a common focal point.
Go to a movie once a week. Make sure that movie is appropriate. Movies that we see here, we want to follow up with some kind of discussion so they can talk about it.
There’s experiences to learn by listening and talking with older folks. That’s history. It’s wonderful when they share stories. Look for opportunities for discussion.
Develop a Sense of Humor
Learn to laugh, share the good jokes, lighten up, do some fun things, be impetuous, and smile a little more.
Some of you are sour, bitter, up tight all the time. Get on the Internet and find some jokes and have a joke night. Everybody come to the table sharing a joke, even if it’s just a shade off color, just a little bit, just enough that’s it’s funny. Everyone needs to share a joke so the whole group can laugh.
Play paint ball. Group laughed so hard it hurt. Find something the kids can laugh about and have fun. Go into a video store and find something country. It’s fresh, relational, good, clean stuff. It’s finding those things that are good and laughing about it. Everybody tells a joke at home with everyone trying to outdo one another. Pull some stunts. Create a sense of humor. Have fun. This is developed. You aren’t born with stuff like that. The goofiness of who you are – kids will enjoy that goofiness. Live it up and enjoy this with your kids in some way. Develop a sense of humor.
Sharing of Thoughts
Look for those times that you are invited to share your thoughts…not just throwing out your ideas for the sake of filling silence.
Sometimes it’s okay just to sit and watch a movie, go to sleep at night, good night, and it was a relaxing time. Go fishing somewhere. This could be a monumental time in the life of your child – spending time with his Dad and loved it. (Dad may feel the day is wasted, but child has it etched in his memory. Share the thoughts. Kids enjoy it when they just sit around and do nothing with their parent(s), enjoy just sitting back and looking at the stars. Go to an observatory and go look at Saturn. Make that a deal – I want you to see Saturn. Take blankets and go out and see the stars in the middle of the night. You may see a meteor shower. (Turn off all the lights possible). Play music while you’re watching the stars and talk about the stars.
That the God of the Heavens even thinks about you is an amazing thing. Start a fire and sleep outside. These are manufactured times and they just don’t happen all at once. Learn a special song and sing to your child in front of an audience. Come up with ideas that you’ve got to make happen for that special time with your child. Share your thoughts during those times and look for them. Even when they don’t want to do it. Build up to it, “when we get home, we’re going to do this.” Every Sunday is my night and your night. We’re going to do something. You don’t get to go out with or get to do anything. If you do, we’re going to cut off one of your toes. But it ain’t going to happen. You have those times for that.
Opportunities to See You “In Action”
Take them to work, share your frustrations, hurts, and longings. Enter their world. And always keep an invitation open for them to come into yours.
In some way, they need to see what you do and what you deal with and the frustrations – so that can feel that there’s some identity with you at the same time. Tell them how you deal with problems. How you seek God’s guidance. How you don’t have all the answers.
Don’t forget who this child was, who he is, or who he will become. The benchmark is the joy at birth…not at the struggles and difficulties.
Get an image of your child, say at age 2. Your child is the same image when you brought them home or if you adopted them. When you got them there and you looked at them and said this is an unbelievable baby – it’s the same child. And they’re made up the same and they’re the same purpose they were created for that day. It may be covered up with stuff, but it’s the same one. If you keep that in mind, whatever circumstances there are surrounding the child, it is there for a reason. So it’s really a coming along side rather than a standing in front of or always having to feel behind. It is being with them at those times.
Seek right things for the right reasons, confront with calmness, and correct with firmness…with a love that seeks their best interest.
Let them know where they can go, and where they can’t. And be firm about that. You walk here, and you’re in trouble. But you can have the freedom to do whatever you want here. But you go here and that’s it. Unacceptable behavior has to be dealt with on the spot.
You don’t want to say, “I will never support that.” You’re setting yourself up for failure, cause you may have to eat your words. “It’s your choice.” There are no limits in that, because you’re at the age when you can make your own decision. But when they’re living at home and they’re with you, establish that – and set some boundaries around yourself. We’re not going to do this. We not going to be involved in this. We’re not going to continue to enable inappropriate behavior in our home.
Display a Firm Commitment to God, Family, and Others.
Display your own beliefs by your actions.
“At all times share the gospel, other times use words.” –St Francis of Assisi
Put it into words. Don’t just say it. Words mean very little. Let your actions speak louder than words.
And so the issue is not enforcing the rules, though that is necessary. The issue is how do I maintain a relationship with my teen? A relationship that doesn’t stop if they don’t respond (and they won’t). A relationship that loves them through the tough times, and always shows them the character of God, for you are His earthly model.